AVENTURA-Friday March 7, Starbucks Corp, the world’s largest coffee chain, is set to sell an exclusive coffee from Rwanda on the international market for the first time, a spokesman said, as consumer demand for origin-specific flavors grows.
The bean, which carries a hint of cocoa, is called Rwanda Blue Bourbon. Grown at an altitude of 1,700 to 2,000 meters (5,000 to 6,000 feet) in Cyangugu Province, it will be sold as whole beans in Europe and Asia by early April.
A part of the company’s Black Apron Exclusives products, it will sell until supplies from the recent harvest run out, Scott McMartin, Starbucks’ green coffee sustainability director, said on the sidelines of the National Coffee Association of USA’s 97th annual conference in Florida.
McMartin could not say how much of the coffee was available, but he did say the small farms that produced it are part of a cooperative, and that Starbucks bought it all.
The featured coffee was sold for a limited time in the United States, named after the old-variety bourbon tree. The product relaunch is a response to a growing trend in which consumers want to know where their latest cup of Java was grown.
"We have seen a growing trend in the industry for geographic indicators," McMartin said.
Geographic indicators are a marketing tool that combines identifying a specific territory and the human component, such as traditional methods of production. They act like a brand for the origin that produces the coffee.
Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, is another example. It recently won trademark rights for its specialty Sidamo coffee in the United States.
"Most of the geographical indicators exist in the developing countries," Daniele Giovannucci, team leader for the United Nations International Trade Center, said during the conference.
"Increasingly, consumers are much more aware," he said, referring to coffee lovers who want to know where the beans were grown.
While the indicators act as a marketing mechanism that has the potential to both protect and foster cultural traditions, the results have not always benefited farmers financially.
Programs that will lead to long-term benefits, such as providing education and price premiums at the farmer level, need to be in place for success, Giovannucci said.
"In most cases, geographical indicators integrate a series of standards, they allow for rural development," he said, adding that steady production and good quality can result.
Starbucks buys from many African countries and aims to open farmer support centers in Rwanda and Ethiopia by the end of this year, McMartin said.
Starbucks views Rwanda as an up-and-coming, high-quality coffee market.
The company buys the bulk of its coffee beans from Latin America, but is increasing how much it buys from Africa, McMartin said.
"We think the potential from (Africa) is huge," he said